How To Set SMART Fitness Goals

Any conversation about fitness motivation and success includes the topic of goal setting. You know having goals is important, and you might even set them. But why is it so hard to hit your target?

One reason could be that your goals aren’t smart. No, I’m not saying they’re dumb! In this case, SMART is an acronym for goals designed to drive results.

For that reason, I’m going to walk you through how to set SMART fitness goals. So you can get the results you want and the body you desire.

SMART Goals Acronym

Each letter in the SMART goals acronym stands for a word. While the exact words may vary, the intent is the same – to help you set better goals.

When setting SMART fitness goals, the letters stand for Specific, Measured, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed.

smart fitness goals

Specific

First, setting a specific goal is like a bullseye. It gives you a precise target to shoot for.

Use 5 W’s to make your goal specific; Who, What, Where, When, Why.

Who is involved? What do you want to accomplish? Where will it occur? When will you begin? Why is this goal important to you?

Measured

Also, a SMART fitness goal should be measurable. The measurement could be a quantity, like body weight. Or a quality, like being lean and muscular.

The important thing is that you clearly define what success looks like. And you’re able to tell if you’re moving in the right direction. In other words, assign a value to your goal and track your progress.

Always remember, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

Achievable

Of course, your fitness goal needs to be realistic. Keep in mind what’s physically possible. And understand your starting point in relation to your endpoint.

Think of it like this, climbers don’t reach the peak of Mt Everest in a single day. Instead, they scale the mountain a little at a time.

Likewise, you shouldn’t expect to go from flab to fit in 30 days. Set small, achievable goals on the way to your fitness peak.

Your goal needs to be possible, but also challenging enough to push you higher.

Relevant

In addition to being realistic, your goal also needs to be relevant. This means it’s connected to your overall objective – not based on a random feeling.

To illustrate, relevance occurs where all the pieces of your objective overlap. In this case, your goal should be something that is important to you, possible, and healthy.

smart fitness goals - relevance

When you’re goal isn’t important, you get bored. And when it’s not possible, you set yourself up for failure.

Most importantly, if you can’t reach your goal in a healthy way, you’ll overtax your body or crash your metabolism – leading to burnout.

A fitness goal is relevant when it addresses an important problem in a practical and healthy way.

Timed

Finally, a SMART fitness goal needs a time-frame. This is a deadline that forces you to take action and prevents procrastination.

A goal completion date could be a social event, a bodybuilding contest, or just a designated amount of time.

Set a reasonable time-frame to complete your goal and hold yourself accountable.

SMART Fitness Goals Examples

It’s important to begin with the end in mind. You want to know what your final destination is, even if it’s a long way off.

So let’s start with some examples of long term SMART fitness goals. These are goals that you want to reach more than 6 months from now.

Long Term SMART Fitness Goals

  • I will lose 30 lbs in 6 months to fit into my wedding dress
    • Her goal is specific and measurable. And she has a target that is relevant and achievable within the time-frame. But I caution measuring only scale weight as it can incentivize undereating and overtraining.
  • I will gain 20 lbs of muscle and compete in my first bodybuilding contest next year
    • Measuring body composition is the best way to track physical transformation. His goal is specific and feasible, assuming his contest is at least 12 months away.
  • I will go from being overweight to seeing definition in my arms and legs within 6 months
    • While her goal is specific and achievable, it’s difficult to measure. But that’s ok as long as she closely monitors her progress (taking pictures helps). Also, she could make her target more specific with a picture of how she wants to look.
  • I will fit into size 34 jeans for my class reunion in 9 months (current waist size is 42)
    • He has a goal that’s easy to measure and it’s definitely doable. Although he may not be happy with how he looks even if his jeans fit. So he should make it a point to lose fat and add or maintain lean muscle.
  • I will run a marathon two years from today
    • This goal is starting to get a little too vague and far off. While it’s possible to measure progress, it’s not clear how they plan to do it. And it could use clarification as to why it’s important.

Long term goals are like picking the mountain peak you want to stand on. However, they’re not that good for plotting your path to the summit. That’s where short term goals come in.

smart fitness goals - long term and short term

Short Term SMART Fitness Goals

In order to drive action, it’s better to set short term SMART fitness goals for 3 months or less. That way you can focus on what you need to do now to move closer to your peak.

Each of the examples below corresponds to the long term goals above.

  • I will lose 5 lbs this month by running and tracking calories
    • Her goal is specific and it fits with her overall objective to lose 30 lbs in 6 months. It has actionable steps but could be even more specific by defining her workouts and calorie intake.
  • I will gain 2 lbs of lean mass in 4 weeks by eating 3,500 calories per day and lifting weights 5 days per week
    • He nailed it by being very specific. And he can hold himself accountable with measurable actions every day and week. This is what a SMART goal looks like! He will achieve his goal as long as his calorie target is correct and he eats healthy.
  • I will tone up my arms in 60 days by going to Zumba class 3 days a week
    • She has a specific action she wants to take. But again, the goal itself is tough to measure.
  • I will lose 1 inch off my waist this month by riding my bike and eating healthy 6 days a week
    • His goal is well aligned with his overall objective of losing 8 inches. And he has diet and exercise actions, but they could be more specific.
  • I will be able to run 3 miles non-stop within the next 30 days (currently able to run 1.5 miles)
    • This goal should move them closer to being able to run a marathon in two years. But it could use a plan for how often they will run and at what pace.

Beyond Setting Goals

You may have noticed that all the goals start with “I will”. That’s because this positive language affirms in your mind that you can achieve what you say.

Goal setting and affirmations are two aspects of my 5 part motivation framework called GRAPH. I know you’re probably sick of acronyms by now, but I assure you, these frameworks will pay you back over and over again!

My Foolproof 5 Step Motivation Framework

Reach Your Goal With A SMART Plan

Setting SMART goals is a good first step. But it takes a SMART plan to actually transform your body.

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About the Author

Jeremy Fox  –  Founder of Nutritioneering, Engineer, CPT, Bodybuilder, Coach

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